The Eleventh Hour for Riau’s Forests
Two global pulp and paper companies will decide their fate
This background document provides an overview of the state of the forests in Sumatra's Riau province. It
documents the province’s rapid rate of forest loss over the last two decades associated with the expansion of
two industries – paper and palm oil. The report illustrates how Riau's pulp and paper industry, dominated by
the two multi-national companies APP and APRIL, is the driving force behind this forest loss.
The report concludes with a call for a ‘precautionary approach’ to further forest clearing in Riau. It
recommends that no natural forest areas should be cleared without prior assessments that identify “high
conservation values” and outline measures needed to protect those values. Such measures are urgently
needed to protect Riau’s last remaining forests and the tigers and elephants they support.
WWF and local NGO partners are continuously monitoring the environmental performance of APRIL and
APP. WWF Indonesia is issuing periodic “Monitoring Briefs” on the activities of the two companies,
including their contribution to the protection or loss of forest conservation values in Riau. The briefs are
posted on WWF Indonesia’s website 1 . This document should be viewed in connection with the briefs.
Forest Loss in Riau
Riau Province, in the center of Indonesia’s island of Sumatra (Equator and 101oE), is the home of two of the
world’s largest pulp mills, produces more than two thirds of Indonesia’s pulp 2 , and is covered with more
timber plantations and more oil palm concessions than any other province in Indonesia 3 . Between 1988 and
2005, half of Riau’s forests disappeared at an average rate of 170,000 hectares per year or 460 hectares per
day (Tab. 1). The loss of some of the most diverse forests on earth (Gillison 2001 4 and LIPI 2003 5 ) is
accelerating rapidly. The annual rate of forest cover loss was 2.2% in 2002, 4.2% in 2004 and 6.8% in 2005
Table 1-- Forest Cover Change between 1982 and 2005 (based on data from UNEP World Conservation
Monitoring Centre , the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry [1988 and 1996], and interpretation of
Landsat images by WWF [2000-2005]). See also Map 1.
Total % of Riau Total Years Annual
Year Area Mainland Forest Loss between Loss of
(hectares) Area (hectares) Analyses Previous
Riau Mainland 8,223,198 - - - - -
Riau Forest Cover 1982 6,415,655 78% - - - -
Riau Forest Cover 1988 5,623,601 68% 792,054 6 years 132,009 2.1%
Riau Forest Cover 1996 4,159,823 51% 1,463,778 8 years 182,972 3.3%
Riau Forest Cover 2000 3,363,120 41% 796,703 4 years 199,176 4.8%
Riau Forest Cover 2002 3,216,374 39% 146,746 2 years 73,373 2.2%
Riau Forest Cover 2004 2,944,065 36% 272,310 2 years 136,155 4.2%
Riau Forest Cover 2005 2,743,198 33% 200,867 1 year 200,867 6.8%
As the forests go, so do the species they harbor. Only one out of four elephants found during surveys in 1985
was still counted in 2003, more have been dying every year since then. 7 Compressed into smaller and
smaller forest patches and forced to feed in the oil palm plantations and fields that replaced their forests,
many elephants have clashed with the farmers and plantation managers who have invaded their habitat.
Poisoned, shot and captured, they have been disappearing as fast as their forests 8 (Figure 1). CCAfter a series
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of high profile elephant killings in late 2005 and early 2006, the Indonesian Minister of Forestry decided to
prioritize elephant conservation in Riau Province[w1]. Elephant conservation means habitat protection.
Habitat protection means forest conservation. Forests important for elephants are high conservation value
Figure 1-- A direct consequence of forest loss: elephant family poisoned near Mahato village in February 2006;
one of the ten elephants captured near Libo Forest Block and abandoned without food, water or medical care in
March 2006; first of the ten elephants who died on 14 April from tetanus infection in leg wounds cut by extremely
tight and rusty chains (Photos: Samsuardi/WWF Indonesia).
Causes of Forest Loss in Riau
The loss of wildlife habitat, the disappearance of Riau’s forests is a direct consequence of the rapid
expansion of two industries:
1. Since the early 1980s, natural forest has been cleared legally and illegally to establish plantations for the
palm oil industry. Initially, a few large companies were responsible for the clearing. But since 2000,
community groups (local peoples and migrants from other provinces) have been driving most of the
conversion of natural forest to oil palm. Companies tacitly support such community “development”.
Their mills purchase the oil palm crops produced by the communities.
2. Since the mid 1990s, natural forest has been cleared legally and illegally to feed the mills and / or to
establish monoculture fiber plantations of the pulp and paper industry (“industrial timber plantations”
Whether in the name of oil palm or of timber plantation development, forest clearings in Riau have provided
a steady source of mixed tropical hardwood (MTH) for the two resident pulp & paper companies Asia Pulp
& Paper Co. Ltd. (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings, Ltd. (APRIL). Often the
development of those plantations was licensed, but sometimes it was not, the forests were cleared illegally.
Sometimes the forests were cleared and the plantations were not even established. The operators were only
interested in the timber and did not invest in the planting. The land was left barren with the forest gone,
elephant and tiger habitat destroyed, the soil eroding and an economic opportunity wasted. The pulp
companies’ arrival in Riau and their insatiable hunger for “any” wood thus created a market for wood from
sometimes illegal, often questionable but always unsustainable conversion of forests to plantations or
Since 2001, WWF has urged both resident pulp mills to refuse wood from illegal or “dubious” sources to
remove this market incentive for illegal forest clearing. The results were mixed. During occasional spot
checks, WWF’s Forest Crime Unit found that APRIL accepted illegally harvested logs from the Tesso Nilo
Forest Block as late as September 2002 and APP as late as July 2004. However, Eyes on the Forest , a joint
project of WWF and two Riau NGO networks Jikalahari and Walhi Riau that investigates the chains of
custody of timber from Riau’s natural forests to the final buyers, found evidence that APP and APRIL
accepted wood from illegal and/or questionable sources as late as May 2006 9 . The Central Government is
now verifying the questionable licenses that “allowed” the sourcing of that timber.
Government policy allows the establishment of timber plantations only on barren land, grasslands, bush, or
very degraded forest. Companies are requested to micro-delineate and maintain healthy productive forests
and forests with conservation values before establishing timber plantations. Inspections of company
operations on the ground and interpretation of satellite images clearly show that this has not occurred.
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Forest Loss and Pulp Mills
Today, APP and APRIL together produce around 4.2 million tons of pulp annually in Riau. Both companies
are creating timber plantations and are slowly increasing the supply of plantation wood to their mills.
However, the proportion of plantation fiber in their total wood supply is still very low. The best available
estimates from 2004 and 2005 indicate that both mills still relied on the clearing of natural forests for about
70 percent of their total wood supply. Applying conversion factors (for processing wood into pulp) used by
AMEC (a Canadian consulting firm hired to audit APP’s wood supply in 2003) WWF calculated that about
170,000 hectares of natural forests were cleared to feed APP and APRIL’s pulp mills in Riau in 2005 10 . This
number is remarkably close to the average annual loss of 160,000 hectares of Riau forest detected on satellite
images between 2002 and 2005 or the 200,000 hectares of forest loss between 2004 and 2005 (Table 1).
Interestingly, annual forest loss in Riau dramatically slowed to an average of 75,000 hectares annually
between 2000 and 2002 (Table 1), the two years after APRIL and especially APP (with a US$13.9 billion
debt) slid into a major financial crisis.
Data published by Eyes on the Forest 11 illustrate the vast control pulp giants APP and APRIL have over the
fate of Riau’s forests. In 2005, timber plantation concessions covered 21.5% (1,771,376 hectares) of Riau’s
mainland area (Table 2, Map 1). 38.1% (674,765 hectares) of that area was still covered by natural forest,
representing one quarter (24.6%) of the natural forest remaining in Riau. The two companies will therefore
decide the fate of a quarter of Riau’s remaining natural forest, they will determine whether this forest is
protected from their own clearing operations, illegal loggers, and/or forest fires. 103,205 hectares of natural
forests were cleared inside timber plantation concessions between 2004 and 2005 (Table 2). But 170,000
hectares of natural forests are estimated to have been pulped by APP and APRIL during that time. About 40%
of the mills’ natural wood supply thus came from other areas: forests legally and illegally cleared mostly
inside of concessions dedicated to the establishment of oil palm plantations.
Table 2-- Timber Plantation Concessions and Natural Forest Cover in Riau and Jambi and Relationships with APP and
Forest % Forest % Forest
% Riau Timber % Forest Forest % Forest Forest Loss
Size of Area Cover Cover Cover
Mainland Plantation Cover in Cover 2005 Cover in (ha)
(ha) 2004 2004 in 2005 in
Area Concessions Concessions (ha) Concessions 2004-2005
(ha) Mainland Mainland
Riau Mainland 8,223,198 - - 2,944,065 35.8% - 2,743,198 33.4% - 200,867
A PP Associated Timber
679,424 8.3% 37.1% 228,377 7.8% 33.6% 198,629 7.2% 29.2% 29,748
Concession in Riau Mainland
A PRIL Associated Timber
Concession in Riau 546,629 6.6% 29.9% 193,899 6.6% 35.5% 156,096 5.7% 28.6% 37,803
Timber Concessions with
unknown association in Riau 545,323 6.6% 29.8% 349,591 11.9% 64.1% 320,040 11.7% 58.7% 29,550
S ubtotal: Timber Concession
1,771,376 21.5% 96.8% 771,867 26.2% 43.6% 674,765 24.6% 38.1% 97,101
in Riau Mainland
A PRIL Associated Timber
57,807 - 3.2% 31,117 - 53.8% 25,013 - 43.3% 6,104
Concession on Riau Islands
Total: Timber Concession in
1,829,183 - 100.0% 802,984 - 43.9% 699,779 - 38.3% 103,205
Riau Mainland & Island
*1 Three concessions which APRIL considers “not feasible for plantation” are excluded from the calculation.
(Data Sources: Size of Area (hectares): Dinas Kehutanan, Forest Cover 2004 and 2005: WWF Indonesia, Associated Pulp Mill: Dinas
Kehutanan, APRIL, public documents by APP.)
Riau’s Forests with High Conservation Values
In 2003, WWF Indonesia commissioned a study to identify Riau’s forests with high conservation values
using The High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) Toolkit for Indonesia 12 . The preliminary HCVF
analysis 13 identified eight remaining large forest blocks, scattered across Riau (Map 1). The authors
considered each to be a HCVF under the precautionary principle [w2]as they were large landscape level
forests (High Conservation Value 2) that likely hosted viable populations of rare, threatened and endangered
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species, such as Sumatran elephants and tigers (High Conservation Value 1). They were to be protected by
the forest managers until more detailed studies had been conducted. The HCVF Toolkit for Indonesia states:
“An important component of the management of HCVFs is the application of the Precautionary
Approach [w3] . HCVFs are, by definition, the most important forests from a conservation or social
perspective (depending on the HCVs identified). Therefore, it is critically important that the values identified
are not lost. But with the current level of knowledge about forests and how they function, it is not possible to
be sure in every case that a particular management strategy will work. Therefore, it is essential to use the
precautionary approach [w4]when dealing with HCVFs.”
Map 0-- Change of Forest Cover from 1982 to 2005 and Timber Plantation Concessions. Eight major forest
blocks remaining in Riau: 1. Senepis, 2. Giam Siak Kecil, 3. Kampar Peninsula, 4. Kerumutan, 5. Bukit
Tigapuluh, 6. Tesso Nilo, 7. Rimbang Baling and 8. Libo Forest Blocks.
Since the original HCVF study, several of the eight potential HCVF blocks have been studied in more
detail 14 . These studies influenced both of Riau’s resident pulp and paper companies to make commitments.
APP committed to protect HCVF identified in four of its Forest Management Units (see the WWF
Monitoring Brief on APP) but continues logging in all others. APRIL went far beyond APP’s commitments
by deciding to not convert any more natural forest until their conservation values have been mapped and
protected. APRIL’s President of Global Fiber Supply said: “It is our policy that we do not source fiber from
areas of high conservation value. The process of identification of High Conservation Value Forests is further
reinforced with the Indonesian HCVF Assessment Toolkit which was developed and published in 2003” 15 .
In Riau, identification and protection of HCVF, whether or not valid government licenses to convert the
natural forest have been issued is more important than ever. As more and more natural forests are fragmented
and eventually cleared to produce paper and palm oil for the world market, the value of the remaining forests
dramatically increases--for biodiversity and pharmaceutical resources, for the endangered Sumatran
elephants and tigers they host, and for the local communities who depend on them. These values have to be
identified and protected as soon as possible.
Already, Riau’s elephants and tigers have run out of space. If forest loss and degradation continue, Riau’s
Elephant Tragedy 16 will escalate. It will soon be matched by a Tiger Tragedy, eventually leading to the local
extinction of these species.
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The environmental services provided by Riau’s forests, including their hydrological and carbon storage
functions, will further deteriorate. Floods, power outages and epidemics will get worse. The annual forest
and land fires in Riau’s peat lands will further increase as will their enormous impact on public health and
Tropical peatlands play a crucial global role in carbon storage and climate moderation, and 13% of all of
Southeast Asia’s peatlands are found in Riau. As Riau’s dry lowland forests began to disappear, Riau’s
plantation industries turned to the province’s peatlands with often catastrophic results such as collapsing peat
domes and failing oil palm and timber plantations. On 26 January 2006, the “Riau Declaration on Peatlands
and Climate Change 17 ” was endorsed by experts on peat land and global climate issues from 12 countries at
a workshop entitled “Vulnerability of Carbon Pools in Tropical Peatlands.” The declaration recommended
that all stakeholders “stop the further conversion and/or drainage of deep peat and peat domes” and take all
necessary actions for rehabilitation and responsible use of tropical peat lands. The declaration concludes that
the emission of carbon dioxide from peatlands in Southeast Asia caused by unsustainable management
practices (drainage of peat for oil palm and timber plantations, agriculture, unsustainable logging, forest and
land fires) are one of the single largest sources of green house gas emissions globally, equivalent to 10% of
the average global fossil fuel emission over the past 10 years. Riau’s plantation industries, with their
continued clearance of natural forests on peatlands, their drainage and following soil subsidence of peatlands
for plantation development, and the often rampant forest and land fires within their concessions, are thus
major contributors to global warming.
Map 0-- Riau Forest Cover in 2005 related to Peat Depth and Timber Plantation Concessions. Forests in
‘pink’ are above peat with depths of more than four meters. Some forests in ‘blue’ may also be above peat
with depths of more than three meters.
From a legal standpoint, development of plantations on peat lands is highly problematic. The government of
Indonesia prohibits the clearing of forest above peat with depths of more than three meters 18 . Many of Riau’s
peat lands are deeper than 3 meters, yet many timber plantation concessions are located on such soils (Map 2,
all forests in pink and some of the forests in blue). These forests should not be cleared. Existing government
laws are already in place to prevent many of the catastrophic effects caused by the clearance of peat forests
predicted above. Companies could easily avoid causing such effects by abiding by existing laws and
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WWF Calls for 100% HCVF-Free Fiber Supplies
For both companies, it is unlikely that the wood supply in 2006 will be very different from that in 2005. A
similar amount of natural forest is likely to be converted to supply the two pulp mills this year. For several
years, both companies have promised their customers short deadlines by which they would exclusively
provide pulp and paper made from plantation fiber. Currently, APRIL promises to be natural wood free by
2009 19 , and APP promises to reach that target by 2008 20 . Yet WWF has received reports from various
sources that APP’s acacia plantations, especially those in their third generation and on peatlands, are failing.
APRIL’s plantations are younger. The quality of their peatland plantations and the viability of their third
generations remain to be seen. As both companies are unwilling to reduce production at their respective pulp
mills, large scale failures of plantations on precarious soils would mean that natural forest will remain the
mills’ main source of fiber for a long time to come.
APRIL has publicly committed to protect and exclude all high conservation value forests from its global
wood supply and will thus look for non-HCVF alternatives should its plantations suffer the same fate as
APP has not made such a far reaching commitment. Instead, the company’s position to maintain and increase
its mills’ productions combined with the fact that its plantations are failing spell doom for Riau’s forests (see
‘WWF Monitoring Brief’ on APP).
To protect what remains of Riau’s forests, WWF recommends that no conversion license should be issued, or
forest cleared, without a prior assessment of high conservation values in the forest and surrounding
landscape and identification of measures needed to maintain and enhance such values. Such assessments
should apply the High Conservation Value Toolkit for Indonesia, which recognizes several conservation
values of forests: their biodiversity, their function as habitat for key endangered species, the environmental
services they provide for downstream cities and communities, and their cultural and economical importance
for local communities. This approach should be supported by all actors – government, companies and
community groups involved in forest clearing, companies using or buying paper products sourced from
Riau’s pulp mills, and companies buying or using palm oil sourced from Riau.
Paper buying companies can contribute to the conservation of Riau’s forests. They can review their supply
chains to ensure they are not contaminated with wood fiber that is sourced illegally or by clearing forests
likely to contain high conservation values. Where there is a risk of paper products containing timber from
such “unwanted sources”, buyers can request their suppliers to verify that the fiber is from environmentally
and socially responsible sources. If suppliers do not provide such assurances, the buyers can direct their
business elsewhere. However, if individual suppliers are responsive (e.g. by supplying HCVF-free products),
buyers can reward their efforts by offering “preferred supplier” status.
Monitoring by WWF Indonesia and Eyes on the Forest
WWF Indonesia and Eyes on the Forest will continue to monitor APP and APRIL’s forestry operations and
wood sourcing and publish the data on: http://www.eyesontheforest.or.id/. The site has a subscription service
for those who which to receive alerts on new postings of news or investigative reports.
WWF Indonesia will issue periodic “Monitoring Briefs” on the activities of the two companies, including
their contribution to the protection, or further loss, of forest conservation values in Riau. These briefs will be
posted at WWF Indonesia’s website 21 .
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WWFH Indonesia Website http://www.wwf.or.id/index.php?fuseaction=news.detail&language=e&id=NWS1151055588H
Industri Pulp dan Kertas: Berpotensi, tapi Sepi Investasi (Pulp and Paper Industry: High Potential, but Limited Investment)
Indonesia Palm Oil Commission (2005) Statistik Perkebunan Kelapa Sawit Indonesia 1998 - 2003 (Statistics of Indonesian Palm
Oil Plantations 1998 - 2003).
HAndrew N. Gillison (2001) Vegetation Survey and Habitat Assessment of the Tesso Nilo Forest Complex. Pekanbaru, Riau
Province, Sumatra, Indonesia: 27 October – 10 November 2001. Report prepared for WWF-US. H
HPrawiradilaga, D.M. et al. (2003) Survey Report on Biodiversity of Tesso Nilo. May – August 2003. Research Centre for Biology
- LIPI and WWF Indonesia. (Executive Summary) H Hhttp://eyesontheforest.or.id/doc/summary_bio_assesment.pdfH
Eyes on the Forest (4 April 2006) Interactive Map on Elephant Distribution and Conflict in Riau, Sumatra.
Eyes on the Forest (4 April 2006) Interactive Map on Elephant Distribution and Conflict in Riau, Sumatra.
WWF Indonesia (2006) Riau’s Elephants: The 2006 Tragedy Hhttp://www.wwf.or.id/tessonilo/Default.php?ID=926H
Eyes on the Forest Investigative Reports, available at Hhttp://www.eyesontheforest.or.id/H
Forest to pulp conversion based on AMEC data: 4.2 m tons of total pulp production x 4.5 (wood to pulp ratio) x 1.13 (wood ton to
m3 ratio) x 70% (share of MTH among the total wood supply) x 1.235 (adding 23.5% harvest & transport yield losses) / 110 (average
timber standing volume per hectaresof natural forest) = 167,847 hectares per year.
Eyes on the Forest Interactive Map: Hhttp://maps.eyesontheforest.or.id/Home/index.htmlH
Jennings, S., Nussbaum, R., Judd, N. and Evans, T. (December 2003) The High Conservation Value Forest Toolkit. Edition 1.
Proforest. Available at: Hhttp://www.proforest.net/H
Jarvie, J., Dedy, K. and Jennings, S. (February 2003) A Preliminary Assessment of High Conservation Value Forests in Riau,
Sumatra. Commissioned by WWF Indonesia.
APRIL (10 August 2005) APRIL Stands Firm in Protecting Forests Through Responsible Management – Moratorium Will Cause
Further Environmental Degradation. Hhttp://www.aprilasia.com/news/pr003c1.pdfH
WWF Indonesia Tesso Nilo Website: Riau's Elephants: The 2006 Tragedy at:
17 Global Carbon Project, Global Environment Centre and Centre for International Forestry Research (26 January 2006) Riau
Declaration on Peatlands and Climate Change. Pekanbaru, Indonesia.
Presidential Decree No 32/1990, Ministry of Forestry Decree Number: SK. 101/Menhut-II/2004. on Acceleration of Industrial
Forest plantation Development to Supply Raw Material for the Pulp and Paper Industry.
APRIL (2005) 2004 Sustainability Report. Hhttp://www.aprilasia.com/csr/SR2004_final.pdfH
APP (2004) Sustainability Action Plan.
WWFH Indonesia Website http://www.wwf.or.id/index.php?fuseaction=news.detail&language=e&id=NWS1151055588H
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